Curriculum Connections Huddled Mass or Second Class? Middle Level Lesson

“They Don't Know Me”: Exposing the Myths and Establishing the Facts about Immigration


This lesson helps students to differentiate the myths from the facts about immigrants and immigration. Students participate in a quiz and analyze a political cartoon in order to better understand how stereotypes and scapegoating are used to marginalize immigrants. They then hear immigrant testimonials, view a video clip and investigate scenarios in order to increase their empathy and develop their skills as allies to targeted individuals and communities.


  • Students will distinguish myths from facts regarding immigrants and immigration
  • Students will learn how stereotyping and scapegoating marginalizes groups
  • Students will increase their understanding of the impact of anti-immigrant bias
  • Students will identify and practice strategies for being an ally to targeted individuals and groups



Time: 2 hours or 3 class periods

Grade Level: Grades 6 – 9

Strategies and Skills: analyzing political cartoons, brainstorming, case study, cooperative group work, critical thinking, forming opinions, large and small group discussion, media literacy, reading skills, social action, substantiating factual information, writing skills

Key Words and Phrases: 9-11, ally, barrier, bias, border, day laborer, discrimination, immigrant, immigration, Muslim, myth, native, prejudice, refugee, scapegoat, Sikh, stereotype, terrorism, undocumented, unemployment, wages


Handouts/Supporting Documents:  download all handouts (.pdf format)

  • Immigration Quiz (one per student)
  • Bloody Glow-Worms (one to project or one per student)
  • Myths and Facts about Immigrants and Immigration (one per student)
  • Quiz Answer Key and Myths and Facts Sources (one copy)
  • Voices of Immigrants (one copy or one per student)
  • Standing Up to Anti-Immigrant Bias (one copy)
  • Being an Ally (one per small group)

Other Materials: chart paper, markers, scissors, What Would You Do? video clip, computer, LCD projector, Internet connection

Advance Preparation:

  • Reproduce handouts as directed above.
  • Set up computer/projector/screen (see steps #2 and #8).
  • Decide which Voices of Immigrants option to use and prepare as indicated (see step #6).
  • Cut apart Standing Up to Anti-Immigrant Bias scenarios (see step #11).


Part I: Myths and Facts about Immigrants and Immigration (45 minutes)

  1. Tell students that they will be exploring the topic of immigration and that, as an introduction to the topic, you’d like them to take a brief true/false quiz. Explain that the purpose is to find out what the class as a whole believes rather than what each individual knows, so they will not need to write their names on the quiz. Distribute a copy of Immigration Quiz to each student and allow 5 – 10 minutes for students to work silently. When students are finished, collect the quizzes.

  2. OPTIONAL: Conduct the quiz by asking students to stand along an imaginary continuum for each question. Designate one side of the room as “definitely true,” the other as “definitely false” and the space between as “unsure” but leaning in one direction or another. Read each statement aloud and ask students to stand in the place that reflects their belief. If time allows, ask for volunteers to share why they believe each statement is true or false.

  3. Project or distribute copies of Bloody Glow-Worms. Have a volunteer read the caption aloud and clarify any vocabulary with which students are unfamiliar. Engage students in a discussion using some of the following questions:

    • How do the insects at the front table feel about the glow-worms? Why do they feel this way?

    • What accusations do they make of the glow-worms? Do you think these claims are true?

    • How does this cartoon relate to immigration?

    • What problems do immigrants sometimes get blamed for in our society? What myths or stereotypes are sometimes spread about this population? (OPTIONAL: List the myths that students come up with on a sheet of chart paper.)

    • What do you think the artist is trying to say through this cartoon?

  4. Tell students that the quiz they took earlier contains some myths about immigrants—ideas that many people in society believe are true, but that are actually flawed or just plain wrong. Tell students that they will revisit the quiz to set apart the myths from the facts about immigrants and immigration.

  5. Divide the class into small groups of 3 – 4 students and distribute the Myths and Facts about Immigrants and Immigration handout to each student. Randomly divide thequizzes completed earlier among each group. Instruct groups to collaboratively mark the quizzes by reading through the Myths and Facts handout and searching for the correct answers. Allow about 20 minutes for groups to work.

  6. OPTIONAL: If time is limited or the reading is challenging for students, cut the Myths and Facts handout into sections and assign each group to read just one or two of the myths.
    NOTE: Refer to the Quiz Answer Key and Myths and Facts Sources as needed.

  7. Reconvene the class and discuss some of the following questions:

    • What surprised you about what you learned from the handout?

    • How did students do overall on the quizzes you marked? Did you find that most students were aware of the facts or did they believe some myths? Which myths in particular?

    • What is a stereotype (an oversimplified idea about an entire group of people without regard for individual differences)? How do you think myths or stereotypes about immigrants take hold in our society? Why do people buy into them?

    • What is a scapegoat (an innocent person or group that is blamed for the general problems of society)? How and why are immigrants scapegoated in our society?

Part II: Exploring the Impact of Anti-Immigrant Stereotypes (45 minutes)

  1. Tell students that you would like them to think about how the myths and stereotypes they just read about can develop into negative behavior, and how this behavior might affect immigrants and all people. Proceed with one of the following options:

    • Divide the class into small groups of 3 – 5 students. Cut apart the handout, Voices of Immigrants, and give each group several quotes to examine. Instruct groups to discuss how each quote made them feel, and to write down examples of myths, stereotypes and/or scapegoating that are reflected in the immigrants’ experiences.

    • Cut apart the handout, Voices of Immigrants, so that there is one quote on each strip. Ask for volunteers to read aloud each quote one at a time, pausing in between for students to reflect on what they have heard.

    • Provide each student with a copy of Voices of Immigrants and have them read all of the quotes. Instruct students to select one quote that they are particularly drawn to and to do some free writing in response to the quote. Have a few volunteers read their reflections aloud to the class.

  2. After exploring the Voices of Immigrants quotes, discuss some of the following questions:

    • How do myths and stereotypes shape the way that people treat immigrants?

    • How does this behavior affect immigrants? How does it affect you?

    • Do the experiences described in the quotes reflect what you see and hear in our school or neighborhood? If so, describe what you have noticed.

    • Why do you think certain groups are singled out for negative treatment in our society?

    • What would you do if you heard or observed anti-immigrant remarks or behavior?

  3. Tell students that you’d like them to watch a video that follows on the last question—“What would you do?” Explain that in this clip, hidden cameras capture how ordinary people react to prejudice and discrimination against immigrants. Make sure students understand that the immigrants in the video and those who treat them badly are all actors. Tell students that, as they watch, you’d like them to think about what they would do if a similar situation occurred in their school or community. Play What Would You Do? and discuss some of the following questions after students have viewed the video.

    • Describe the different forms of bias you observed (e.g., demanding that the day laborers speak English; demanding that they leave/take their business elsewhere; ignoring them or acting indifferently; laughing along with the mean comments; making threatening remarks; etc.).

    • What are some of the stereotypes and prejudices that motivated the biased behavior (e.g., immigrants won’t learn English; they’re invading/overflowing our country; they’re different from Americans; they don’t fit into American culture/society; etc.)?

    • How did Mario, the actual day laborer, react to what he observed and how did this make you feel?

    • How did some customers take a stand against the bias (e.g., they challenged biased assumptions; demanded polite behavior; asserted values such as respect for others; showed kindness to the immigrants by ordering/paying for them; threatened to leave/not give future business to the deli; shared their personal background/experiences to lend support; etc.)?

    • What would you do if you observed your peers behaving in a similarly prejudiced or mean way to immigrants in our school or community?

    • What can you do to make sure you never stereotype or scapegoat immigrants or any group of people?

Part III: Being an Ally to Targeted Communities (30 minutes)

  1. Write the word, ALLY, on the board or a sheet of chart paper and ask students what it means. Record their responses and make sure that the following basic definition is conveyed:

    An ally is someone who speaks out on behalf of someone else or takes actions that are supportive of someone else.

    Comment to students that it can sometimes be scary to stand up for others. Ask them what some of the challenges are of being an ally (e.g., peer pressure, fear of being targeted, not wanting to be the only one, not knowing what to say, etc.) List their responses under the definition of ally.

  2. Suggest that it takes reflection and practice to be an ally; that we need to think about and even rehearse the words we might use in a difficult situation so that we feel prepared in the moment. Tell students that they will be identifying and practicing strategies for being an ally in response to some made-up scenarios in which immigrants are treated with disrespect.

  3.  Divide the class into small groups of 3 – 4 students and have each group select a recorder and a reporter.  Provide each group with one scenario from Standing Up to Anti-Immigrant Bias and the Being an Ally worksheet. Instruct groups to read and discuss their scenario, and to fill in the worksheet with their thoughts and ideas. Allow about 15 minutes for groups to work.

  4. Reconvene the class and have the reporters share highlights from their small group discussions as time allows. Engage the class in a conversation using some of the following questions:

    • What strategies for being an ally did you discuss or hear that never occurred to you before?

    • What strategies did you discuss or hear that you can actually imagine yourself using?

    • Were there strategies that seemed unsafe or uncomfortable to you? Explain.

    • Have you acted as an ally to someone in the past? What happened and how did it feel to stand up against bias or cruelty?

    • What can you do to prepare yourself to act as an ally in the future?

    NOTE: Make sure to acknowledge that there are situations in which it may not be safe to stand up to others. Point out that confronting people is only one way to be an ally, and that it is equally helpful to show support in other ways, such as getting assistance from adults, not laughing at biased jokes and showing friendship to the targets of bias and bullying.


  1. Show students political cartoons that depict anti-immigrant sentiment throughout U.S. history. Discuss how such prejudice has been aimed at many immigrant groups who were newcomers to the U.S. Compare historical examples of prejudice to some of the anti-immigrant attitudes that exist today, and discuss strategies for responding to and reducing such bias.

  2. Have students collect newspaper and Internet articles that reflect current attitudes about immigrants and immigration reform. Discuss the articles in class and help students to identify changes they would like to see in this country regarding the treatment of immigrants. Work with students to identify strategies for achieving these changes (e.g., letter writing, participating in marches/protests, etc.) and help them to follow through on one or more of these change strategies.

Challenging Anti-Immigrant Bias
  • In This Edition
Lesson Plans
  • Elementary Level Lesson (3-5)
  • Middle Level Lesson (6-9)
  • Secondary Level Lesson (10-12)
  • Entire Unit (.pdf format)
Additional Resources
  • Myths and Facts about Immigrants and Immigration (.pdf format)
  • Discussion Guide for “A Nation of Immigrants”
  • Bibliography of Resources on Immigration (.pdf format)
  • ADL Immigration Reports and Resources
Additional ADL Programs & Resources
  • A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute Recommended Multicultural and Anti-Bias Books for Children Grades K-6
  • A CLASSROOM OF DIFFERENCE Programs and Resources
  • Holocaust Awareness and Remembrance® Institute
  • Combating Anti-Semitism
  • Making Diversity Count Online Professional Development Program
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